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Above The Law

Law Enforcement is supposed to enforce laws. Among their other important duties, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement agencies have an obligation to protect and to serve their communities. Most of the time, they dutifully meet their obligation, but what happens when they fail to protect and to serve? What happens when they fail to enforce laws? What happens when they mistakenly believe that they are above the law?

Los Angeles County officials are dealing with a huge public relations nightmare that may further tarnish the already tainted image of several cities and law enforcement agencies in the area.

English: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departme...

English: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department motorcycle detail patrolling the parameter of the Staples Center during the Michael Jackson memorial service. View from the southeast-bound sidewalk of Pico Boulevard, looking north-northwest. This photograph was taken with an Olympus E-510 DSLR camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A photograph of a smiling woman in a Cudahy nightclub brandishing two handguns and wearing a councilman’s badge may have played a role in Sheriff Lee Baca’s decision to recall about 200 badges the department gave to local politicians.

Baca’s decision came two weeks after the FBI arrested three Cudahy city officials on bribery charges.

One command-level sheriff’s official briefed on the badge recall said the move was prompted by the revelation in Cudahy. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore, however, said that the timing was a coincidence and that a 2007 state attorney general’s warning prompted the call to return the badges.

The emergence of the Cudahy photo is the latest in a series of incidents in which official-looking credentials given to civilians by law enforcement agencies have come under scrutiny.

Critics have long said badges and identification cards appeared to be rewards for political contributions and had the potential for abuse. Because of media scrutiny, California police chiefs and sheriffs were told by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown in 2007 that handing out badges created the potential for civilians to falsely pose as law enforcement officers.

The attorney general’s opinion covers any badge “that would deceive an ordinary reasonable person into believing that it is authorized for use by a peace officer.” In the wake of the opinion, some agencies pledged to stop issuing identification cards and badges.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recalled official-looking identification cards but continued giving badges to council members and city managers in cities that contracted for the department’s police services.

Whitmore said the badges were given to city officials for use during emergencies so they could pass through sheriff’s command posts. He estimated about 200 badges will be recalled from about 40 cities.

If you or someone you love were the victim of law enforcement misconduct – including the use of excessive force and police brutality – it is important that you contact a committed and dedicated personal injury lawyer to help you decide if you should file a lawsuit. A competent and reputable injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.